📞 Secret World №. 8: The best

Can you feel it? It’s that time of year where everything seems to slow down. It’s like walking in waist-deep water. There’s no use trying to go faster. I think we all could use a break.

The clementines are good — the perfect, punishing balance between tangy and sweet. I wedged a fir tree into the back of a hatchback and carted it up to my apartment. It smells sweetly of lemon and pine. I have more cookies and treats than I know what to do with (though we both know that’s a lie).

My last story of the year is in this weekend’s Globe and Mail. It’s about the internet-age anxiety of trying to buy The Best, and the realization that maybe you don’t always have to. “For pretty much any product imaginable — a phone, a pillow, a dutch oven, a camp chair — I know there’s probably a detailed, authoritative, definitive guide to tell me which brand, which model, is best,” I wrote. My expectations have been set so high that I’ve caught myself agonizing over the relative merits of soup ladles and litter boxes. So I asked myself, why?

It’s always hard to know how stories like these will land — will anyone relate? — so it was some relief when my editor said it spoke to him in “very unsettling, specific ways.” Maybe some of it will resonate with you too.

I didn’t write much this year, for reasons both obvious and personal. But I’m happy to report that a feature I wrote for The Verge — about a group of oceanographers building a self-driving ocean-mapping robot boat — was picked as one of Longreads’ best science and nature stories of the year. It was something to feel good about in a year where it was hard to get excited about much.

I’m taking next week off, but I’ll see you in the New Year. I hope you’re able to take a little bit of time off, too. 

Secret World is a newsletter from writer Matthew Braga. If you’re not familiar with me or my work, be sure to check out my website, and consider following me on Twitter.